No.18

Leo

Bogotá, Colombia

On the pass:

Leonor Espinosa (pictured) and Jhon Fredy Ocampo

Pastry chef:

Eduardo Solano Ascencio

Style of food:

Modern Colombian with a twist

Standout dish:

Crab, veal sauce, Sierra Nevada’s vanilla

Contact:

Pasaje Santa Cruz de Mompox, Calle 27b, No 6-75, Bogotá

+57 1 286 7091
http://restauranteleo.com

Inventive and perfectly presented Colombian cuisine in a relaxed setting

What’s the concept? Celebrity chef Leonor Espinosa’s flagship restaurant showcases little-known Colombian ingredients such as corozo fruit (a tangy red berry), arrechón (an aphrodisiac drink) and bijao (a banana-like plant), while championing local communities and gastronomic traditions. Since opening Leo she has had a great influence on Colombian cuisine and this year Espinosa wins the title of Latin America’s Best Female Chef.

A few words on the chef: An economist and artist by training, Leo’s love of anthropology, contemporary art and culture is evident in both her cooking and the restaurant itself: a bright, cosy room adorned with bold paintings. Espinosa and executive chef Michel Guzmán share the cooking here and at nearby Misia, a more casual venture inspired by popular Colombian cuisine.

What’s the deal with those big-bottomed ants? The chef crushes the shells of ants from the Santander region to make a crunchy, nutty coating. Then the ants’ bottoms (like tiny snail shells) are placed as garnish on the side of the dish.

How the menus work: Leo has both a seasonal and a classic tasting menu, each around 13 courses, or diners can opt for à la carte. The most recent concept, called Ciclo-Bioma, focuses on Colombian ecosystems, exploring the ways new species can be used in the kitchen. Those not wanting to sample the extensive wine menu can go for the non-alcoholic drinks pairing, which includes refreshing options like corozo berry juice or a corn drink.

Images: Renata Boliva

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